Let’s get one thing straight- Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been spectacular in the small glimpses we’ve seen during friendlies. From the centre of attacking midfield against Wigan and on the left against Borussia Dortmund, Mkhitaryan shone, showing everything United’s tactics have been craving for three years. However, many fans thought Mkhitaryan was signed to fill the ridiculous gap on the right-wing in United’s squad. While Mourinho is probably experimenting and Mkhitaryan will most likely feature on the right side of attack against Manchester City, there needs to be options to reduce reliance on Mkhitaryan. There are many players in the squad who can play on the right and many players in the squad who obviously cannot. But how do we distinguish between them?
This one should be simple, but for some reason, there is a misconception among many United fans that Memphis could be a United star from the right side. Memphis’ entire football style is based on the concept of using the cut onto his right foot to throw the defence off. From the right, he won’t be able to use his best attributes to hurt opposing defenders. He could roam into central areas, but that would create defensive problems. Memphis’ future is either in a strike partnership, on the left or behind a traditional striker.
Suitability for the right-wing: 2/10
Mata’s situation on the wing is as confusing as his current situation at United- Mourinho reaffirmed my suggestion in a previous article that Mata chose to leave Chelsea, which means he could also choose to leave United or, alternatively, choose to stay and try and finally win the Premier League. Many argue that Mata can only play in the centre, which makes sense because he becomes a defensive liability in big matches on the right. He also gets stuck when the play isn’t progressive enough to find him around the box, which will be a problem unless United plays/signs a progressive midfielder to advance the play.
Suitability for the right-wing: 3/10
Arguably the best option for the right-wing at United, the potential of using Januzaj as a backup on the right could be endless. Januzaj needs a route back into the club, he has defensive experience playing wingback under Louis van Gaal, Mourinho is reportedly a fan of him and United’s right-wing player last year, Juan Mata, has a similar style of cutting in onto his left foot. Januzaj has the pace, precision and potential to make it on the right at United, and if he keeps his head down and works hard he’s the best option after Mkhitaryan. The only question right now is regarding his ability.
Suitability for the right-wing: 9/10
Jesse Lingard played most of his games from the right last season for United, and while he scored six goals, none of them came from wide-right areas. Lingard is an industrious player, but he becomes a flair outlet on the left-wing. He’s definitely an option defensively and he can cross the ball going forward. He won’t offer what he could if he played on the left, but he’s definitely an option for energy and stability. Perhaps Lingard could even experiment as a right-back in games where United doesn’t need to defend, an example being when the Red Devils struggled to break down Cambridge United in the FA Cup in van Gaal’s first season.
Suitability for the right-wing: 7/10
Ashley Young is probably the best option for the right side behind Januzaj, playing his best games for the club last season from that position. If Young is deployed in very wide areas where he can be used to switch the play and create space, he can be a very effective, hard-working outlet. The only downside is that Young doesn’t have as much potential to improve as Lingard, which arguably compensates for the slight different in ability.
Suitability for the right-wing: 6/10
Many believe Andreas Pereira is the best player currently in United’s youth academy, regardless of his disciplinary problems. However, right-wing is not the position for him. Pereira is most effective in central areas, where he can use his right foot to his advantage. This means he can only play as the most advanced midfielder, behind a striker or maybe on the left side of attack.
Suitability for the right-wing: 4/10
The last option in the squad is new United star Marcus Rashford, whose chances have been hampered up front by the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, Mourinho has refrained from signing other strikers to make sure Rashford would have a chance at United. It seems he is destined to play up top, but if not, he has the dribbling ability and energy to cause havoc on the wing. He could be quite the wild card option, but United would be better suited with one of Lingard, Young or Januzaj in the big matches.
Suitability for the right-wing: 5/10